Summary: God is Love, Grace, and Forgiveness. We need not worry about coming into God’s Presence. Love, Grace, Forgiveness. That is what it boils down to--not rules, regulations, punishments and anger!!!
“A Woman’s Place”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East ridged United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN
A friend from seminary once told me a story about her call to the ordained ministry.
It came when she was feeling small.
She was just fifteen.
She felt tiny and minute, like a speck of dust in this whole big world.
But God spoke to her, and in that instant, she knew…
…she knew that in the vast scheme of things, little, insignificant, fifteen-year-old Jackie was to play a significant part.
She knew that the Creator was calling her to be a pastor...
…when she was only a youth—a scraggly young girl.
Jackie told me that weeks after her call experience her parents invited their interim pastor over for dinner.
After dinner her mother said, “Jackie, why don’t you tell the pastor your good news?”
She says that he sat there, and then his red, rotund face broke out into hysterical laughter.
He pounded the wooden arms of the chair with his fists, as he commanded, “You can never be a minister! You’re a girl!”
We can see some of this negativity toward women reflected in our Scripture Lesson for this evening.
Jesus and His disciples had come to the home of Martha and Mary, and Martha was busy and “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”
But then something happens that makes Martha stop dead in her tracks.
She rubs her eyes and looks again, to make sure she’s seeing rightly.
There is her sister, Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet, hanging on Jesus’ every Word.
Doesn’t Mary know she has work to do?
Doesn’t Mary know that her place is in the kitchen?
What’s gotten into her, that she would cast her responsibilities aside, and go and join the men?
And that is the key to this situation.
The real problem between Martha and Mary wasn’t the workload that Martha had in the kitchen.
The real problem was that Mary was behaving as if she were a man!!!
In that culture, as in many parts of the world to this day, houses were divided into male “space” and female “space.”
And Mary had crossed a very important boundary within the house and the culture.
The living room or den was where the men would meet.
The kitchen belonged to the women.
Only in the married bedroom would male and female mix.
For a woman to settle down comfortably among men was scandalous!!!
Who did Mary think she was?
Only a shameless woman would behave this way!
Martha was, no doubt, embarrassed by her sister’s behavior.
Mary had forgotten her place!
So Martha was worried and scared.
So she “came to” Jesus “and asked…Tell her to help me!”
And with His gracious response, Jesus frees Martha from any embarrassment she’s feeling.
He sees right into Martha’s inner self: into that part, deep within, that’s like a frightened child.
He reads her heart, and He tells her—and the whole group of folks gathered—that everything is alright.
Some have supposed that Jesus is angry at Martha, but He’s not.
He understands where she’s coming from.
Jesus knows the customs of the day.
Here is a woman who has been denied a wider role in the Temple and in society.
As a matter of fact, the rabbis of Jesus’ day had a saying, “It’s better to burn the Torah than teach it to a woman.”
There was a major negative attitude toward women in that culture.
And even to this day, some orthodox men pray daily thanking God that God did not make them women.
And Martha had bought into that.
But Jesus is the Truth.
And many times, the Truth goes against the grain of the way we look at the world!!!
And the Truth is that there are no boundaries in Christ!
There is no—“this person is more important than another.”
There is no caste system or class system.
To sit at the feet of a teacher was a decidedly male role.
And to sit at someone’s feet meant, quite simply, to be their student.
As the teacher taught, the student would be listening and learning and focusing.
And to sit at the feet of a rabbi was what you did if you wanted to be a rabbi yourself.
There was no thought of learning for learning’s sake.
Mary had quietly taken her place as a would-be teacher and preacher of the Kingdom of God!
And Jesus affirms her right to do so.
There’s no hysterical laughter, nor is there any pounding of fists.
I think it’s interesting, given the customs and rules of the day that Mary felt comfortable sitting at Christ’s feet.
I think it tells us a lot about Jesus; a lot about God.